Thursday, August 5, 2021

Namibian desalination plant was deemed more expensive than Lesotho transfer – Khama

We are still gathering more of the relevant information but the reaction former president Ian Khama to an official visit that President Mokgweetsi Masisi made nine days ago to Namibia is something you ought to know as early as now.“We did discuss it then and discarded due to cost and chose to pursue a far less costly project,” Khama says.“We” is one particular summitry that Khama was one half of during his presidency – the other half was Namibian president, Hage Geingob; “it” is a desalination plant deal that Masisi went to Windhoek about; and the far less costly project is a water transfer project from Lesotho.

In terms of the desalination plant deal, sea water is to be pumped from the Atlantic Ocean, desalinated in Namibia transferred to Botswana via a pipeline. In terms of the Lesotho project, water was to be supplied to Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa from the Makhaleng Dam – which is part of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme – through a water conveyance pipeline of approximately 700 km in length from Lesotho, through South Africa, to Botswana. Desalination is the process of purifying saline water to make it fit for human consumption. 

Of all the water on earth, 97.5 percent of it is saltwater with only 2.5 percent being fresh water. As one of the world’s most water-stressed regions, Southern Africa gets one of the least amounts of that percentage. Saudi Arabia leads the globe in the production of desalinated water, with a daily production capacity of 117 million cubic feet. The country has 27 desalination plants spread along the country’s coastline.

Speaking during a 2016 visit to Namibia, Khama said that the water could not be transferred raw to Botswana because it would degrade the pipeline. A Namibian paper quotes Khama as calling on the relevant ministries to look into the issue of setting up a plant as a matter of urgency seeing that both countries are in dire need of water. However, as Khama said last week, this project was discarded due to cost.Unlike the desalination plant project, this project was already underway when Khama left office. 

The World Bank had provided US$2 million grant funding in 2015 for a desk-top study; the African Water Facility and the NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility Special Fund had provided a €2,100,000 grant for studies to establish the technical prefeasibility of the entire system (dam and conveyancing pipeline) and the feasibility of the Dam in Lesotho; the Stockholm International Water Institute and CRIDF are supporting prefeasibility institutional and financial studies; the Global Water Partnership Southern Africa will support the project’s capacity-building requirements with €170,000 (cash and in-kind); the Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM) will provide €171,360 (cash and in-kind); and the governments of Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa had provided €61,740 (cash and in-kind).

There has been no word of what happened to the Lesotho water transfer scheme. At press time, we were still trying to get information on how much each project would cost.

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